Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

distinguished officers indulge in some of these criminal practices, and thus seem to be above law. Indeed, the sentiment, that swearing and intemperance are military necessities, is not unfrequently hinted at, if not distinctly avowed. There is too much reason to believe that alcohol has destroyed more lives in this war than gunpowder.

5th. A fifth class of grievous sins against high Heaven is found connected with the avaricious spirit, engendering frauds against the Government. Sharpers, thieves, and plunderers of public property have taken advantage of irregularities in trade, and committed depredations that would make a Hottentot blush.

ve

All kinds of rascality, if perpetrated against the public treasury, have been almost vindicated as smart and praiseworthy. Such evils are nevertheless hateful: "For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap; they catch men. As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit; therefore, they are become great, and waxen rich. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord; shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?” (Jer. v. 26-29.)

Such are the moral but adequate procuring causes of our nation's calamities; such delinquencies must bring down the wrath of God. Accordingly, what amazing commingling of emotions result:

ist. High joy.
2d. Deep sorrow.
3d. Burning indignation.
4th. Subdued humility.

Analagous cases are suggested. Let us note a few:ist. Henry of Navarre, the fourth Henry, and the noblest king

lassa

[ocr errors]

that ever sat upon the French throne. From principle, he was a Huguenot; but from policy, after the St. Bartholomew's massacre, he threw himself into the arms of the Popish party, secretly however assuring the Huguenots that he was their friend, and would protect them. He had been solemnly warned by the Huguenot captain, that, if with his mouth he renounced the Protestant religion, God would smite him on the mouth, and destroy his life. Accordingly, whilst all things seemed settling down into a prosperous condition, he was smittten in the mouth, and killed, by a dagger in the hand of a madman named Ravaillac, whilst riding in the royal coach in the streets of Paris. Thus he was snatched away from the highest glories of what appeared to promise a long and illustrious reign, - a sovereign of the rarest qualities, and of most hopeful promise.

2d. General James Wolfe, in like manner, closed a short and brilliant career on that illustrious day, when, on the Plains of Abraham, he sold his life for deathless renown. In the ebbing of life, his dying ear caught the exclamation, " They fly, they fly!” He asked, "Who fly?" – "The French, the French!” — " Then I die happy!” and he breathed out his mighty soul in the very arms of a victory which swept away French power from a continent, and secured North America for ever to free government and the Protestant religion. Oh, how difficult to bring our feelings into quiet subjection to the ways of Providence in such mysterious dispensations! Why not spare Wolfe and Lincoln to enjoy their triumph? But peace! be still, and know that I am God.

3d. In the days of Charles Stuart, the second profligate prince of that name who disgraced the British throne, the Duke of Ormond was the King's viceroy for Ireland, where he had managed the trust with great wisdom and success. Nevertheless, an active and bold party, led by the Earl of Shaftsbury, assailed the

[ocr errors]

II

[ocr errors]

venerable duke in Parliament, intending, if possible, to bring his life in peril. The Earl of Ossory, son of the duke, was a member of the Commons' House, and threw his young life into his father's defence, and with such vigor and skill as to confuse and utterly discomfit the party, and triumphantly vindicate his father's administration. Not long after this the earl died, and left the noble and venerable duke in the deepest sorrow and anguish. Certain friends approached the bereaved parent with words of consolation. Whereupon, rising under his load of sorrows, and his heart swelling with a noble pride easily to be excused, the venerable father exclaimed, " I would not give my dead son for any living son in Christendom!” So a whole nation to-day exclaims, "We would not give our dead President for any living sovereign in Christendom or the world!” Why then, ah! why did God permit the assassin's hand to touch a life so precious? This I have already, in part at least, answered. Why did God permit wicked men to stone Stephen ? to crucify Peter? to behead Paul? to burn John Huss and John Rogers and Patrick Hamilton?

These, and millions more, heroic martyrs to the cause of truth and freedom, hath God removed just when their work was finished. Abraham Lincoln, like young Hamilton, and Rogers and Huss and Peter and Paul, the aged, had finished his work. He had, in the simplicity of his heart, and the honesty of his conscience, unconsciously written his rustic name higher than the loftiest heretofore known to history and to fame. He had filled up his share — and what a share! — in his country's glory. He had knocked the manacles off four millions of degraded bondsmen. He had called into the field the most powerful armies on which the sun ever shone; he had placed at their heads generals, called from obscurity, who may well look down with scorn on the Petit Corporal, the glory and boast heretofore of all the sons of Mars. He had created a navy of prowess superior to any that ever floated in water, fresh and salt. He had crushed a rebellion organized against the freedom of the world; and with such talent and power as was never before known in human history. He had added this last and indispensable demonstration of the grand truth, that man is capable of self-government. Glory enough, this, for one mortal! And God called him away to higher and holier service, we most fondly and reasonably hope.

We may, indeed we ought, and we do, regret the place from which he was called. We regret that so great a man and so good should have given the force of his example to encourage dens of pollution. But even here, it is obvious his failings on the side of virtue, his kindly temperament, and unwillingness to occasion disappointment to an audience, rather than deliberate choice, occasioned his presence. We may even go further consistently with our high admiration, and accommodate David's lament over Abner: "Died Abner as a fool dieth? Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put in fetters: as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou. And the king lifted up his voice, and wept at the grave of Abner; and all the people wept.” (2 Sam. iii. 32.) Whatever reasons may lie aback of this mournful mystery, it stands out a fearful fact in the movements of that divine Providence who doeth all things well, and that assured us that he will make all things work together for good to those who put their trust in him.

Perhaps Mr. Lincoln would have been excessive in his lenity. His large-hearted benevolence had already led to many acts of clemency in the exercise of the pardoning power, which were, in the opinion of many of his best and most influential friends, of doubtful expediency. The opinion very extensively prevails, that, impelled by his noble sympathies for poor suffering humanity, he had enfeebled the nerve of discipline even in the army, by

[ocr errors]

extending pardon or reprieve to deserters and bounty-jumpers. Perhaps this amiable weakness in a strong mind might have led to more serious evils when criminals of the highest character should stand condemned at the bar of justice. It required more nerve, and of a higher order, to sign the death-warrant of Dr. Dodd than to storm Fort Fisher. Pardon to a man justly condemned is a judgment against Justice herself, and a bribe to future criminality. The right and duty to pardon a murderer has never been placed in the hands of the civil magistrate by divine statute. "Ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death; but he shall be surely put to death." (Num. xxxv. 31.) Providentially, indeed, and in fact, this power is in the magistrate's hands, but not by express divine legislation. But the theory has grown out of the imperfection of all human tribunals. It being possible that an innocent man might be condemned, prudence has suggested the propriety of a last resort, to prevent the execution of an unjust sentence. Wherever, therefore, a reasonable doubt arises as to the justice of the sentence that decrees a man to death, the pardoning power should interfere; otherwise, never. I say, a reasonable doubt, not a doubt created by our sympathetic emotions. "Justice, and judgment are the habitation of Jehovah's throne: mercy and truth go before his face.” (Ps. lxxxix. 14.) Governments are established for the administration of justice, not for the dispensing of mercy; and for this God has put the sword into the magistrate's hand, and he may not bear it in vain. Now, it is our duty always to scan the movements of Providence, that we may, if possible, discover what he would have us to do. Watchman! what of the night? But we shall press the inquiry no further. This is very probably the main reason of the mournful removal of our admired and beloved Chief Magistrate, – that the executive power may fall into the hands of a man made of sterner stuff, and whose experi

reas

nan 1

« AnteriorContinuar »